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In memoriam: Isa-Kae Meksin was named 2018 Congressional Woman of Year

Isa-Kae Meksin

FFRF member and community activist Isa-Kae Meksin, 94, died recently in Los Angeles. 

On April 12, 2018, she was named California’s 28th Congressional District’s Woman of the Year by Rep. Adam Schiff.

“Each year, we pay special tribute to the contributions and sacrifices made by our nation’s women,” Schiff said on the floor of the House. “It is an honor to pay homage to outstanding women who are making a difference in my congressional district. I would like to recognize a remarkable woman, Isa-Kae Meksin of Echo Park, a unique neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. . . . I ask all members to join me in honoring this exceptional, well-respected woman of California’s 28th Congressional District, Isa-Kae Meksin.”

Meksin’s family came to New York City from the Ukraine. Her father Arnold was a concert pianist and her mother Clara was a homemaker. She is a former secretary to visionary Afro-Trinidadian historian and journalist C.L.R. James and the political group known as Correspondence. They believed in observing how workers, African Americans, women and American youth were agents of change. It was this work that led her to Los Angeles, ultimately to connect with and record the activities of factory workers. 

Isa-Kae attended California State University, Los Angeles for her teaching credential; she received her B.A. earlier from Hunter College. Meksin is also a retired teacher from the Norwalk-Los Angeles Mirada School District, where she worked with students with disabilities, specifically those who were vision impaired. She maintained lifelong relationships with some of her past students. 

Meksin worked tirelessly against the Briggs Initiative in 1978. This California initiative sought to bar homosexuals from having jobs with access to children. The proposition would have affected those individuals who were “out” and living an openly gay life, those who were homosexual but not “out” and those individuals who were sympathetic to the rights of homosexuals. As someone who fell into the third category, she testified to the horrific outcomes of such a political initiative and how the legislation perpetuated inaccurate portrayals of homosexuals as pedophiles. The Briggs Initiative did not pass. 

Among her many accomplishments, Meksin worked with California State University, Los Angeles to create opportunities for homeless youth to attend college and in 2017, she was awarded the Distinguished Educator Award from the university for her efforts.

She was a regular volunteer for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, the Central City Action Committee and the Studio for Southern California History, among many other worthy causes.